After years of legal wrangling, the Chevron on Lee Road is being overhauled.
owner Khosrow Haghshenas broke ground this week on the $3.5 million project that will completely redo the gas station by the end of May.
The improvements include a car wash, a larger store, a picnic area and a restaurant at the gas station at the corner of Lee and Beach roads on the outskirts of Watsonville.
"After eight years, I've got the permit in my hand," Haghshenas said Wednesday as he watched a backhoe clear the land behind the existing convenience store and gas station.
The current gas station, which Haghshenas has been running since 1993, will be scuttled and replaced with a 5,580-square-foot convenience store and restaurant. Haghshenas is still shopping around for a fast food chain to open up shop inside but anticipates finding one quickly.
It's been a long haul to get to this point. Haghshenas has been back-and-forth with the county Planning Commission for nearly a decade over the remodel. The Chevron station sits just outside of Watsonville city limits, at the south on/off ramp for Highway 1, meaning county officials have jurisdiction over it.
He got the permits Dec. 22.
"That was the happiest day," Haghshenas said.
The eight-pump gas station serves travelers, beachgoers and campers heading to Sunset State Beach, farm crews and locals. Haghshenas sells banana boxes of firewood for beach bonfires, fills propane tanks and has a liquor license that allows him to offer beer and wine until midnight.
Adding a restaurant and a car wash will complete the services his customers are looking for, he said.
"Being here for 20 years, I know all the customers," Haghshenas said. "This place needs this kind of business."
Former Watsonville City Council Member Bill Neighbors, one of Haghshenas' biggest backers, was with the gas station owner Wednesday to check out the project. He said there are a lot of people excited about the remake of the gas station.
"He's had some good support from local businesses," Neighbors said.
Chevron sent a construction crew to build the new gas station—a requirement so the company's brand is maintained—but Haghshenas anticipates hiring several more employees once the new gas station is up and running. He currently employs four people but may need as many as 20.
The new station is slated to be completed May 31. Pajaro Valley Chevron will remain open during construction, though Haghshenas said they may have to close when the gas pumps are moved. That is several weeks away.
The project is being funded through a loan from , Haghshenas said.